AT LAST month’s ‘Undisputed’ British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC) Awards there were five fights nominated for Contest of the Year.

  • Artur Beterbiev v Anthony Yarde
  • Joe Cordina v Shavkatdzhon Rakihmov
  • Leigh Wood v Josh Warrington
  • Sam Gilley v Louis Greene
  • Jack Martin v CJ Challenger

Every one worthy of their spot but the gong went to the January 2023 world light-heavyweight title bout between Beterbiev and Yarde. A compelling and brutal contest between two big hitters that was impossible to take your eyes off.

Three of the four other nominees included two world title fights and a Commonwealth title fight. The fourth was a 10-round super-welterweight scrap at Brentwood Centre in Essex between Jack Martin and CJ Challenger on December 9.

The same night across the pond in San Francisco Devin Haney turned a difficult assignment against Regis Prograis into a cakewalk to win the WBC super-lightweight title, but Martin and Challenger produced something that will be etched into the memories of those who were in attendance or have watched it on YouTube.

A dramatic and savage encounter ended in round eight with Challenger down and unable to continue. Referee Marcus McDonnell did not need to administer a count, but the paramedics did need to tend to the beaten fighter and were quickly on the scene to provide oxygen. In the December 14 issue of Boxing News, the headline given to the fight report by Simon Euan-Smith was Barnburner!

Martin, 9-1 (4), is now ready for his next fight. A far trickier test against Matchroom prospect Junaid Bostan, 8-0 (6). The unbeaten 22-year-old is clever, quick and looks to have a high ceiling, but a boxing ring reveals the truth and weaknesses and if Bostan isn’t switched on from the opening bell on Saturday night (April 27) Martin will do what he does best and make the whole fight uncomfortable, painful and gruelling.

“I’m expecting him to probably box me,” Martin told BN over the phone.

“He’s got sharp reflexes, he’s got good reactions, good footwork, good movement so I’m expecting him to try and out-box me for 10 rounds.

“I don’t think he’s fought anyone like me yet. I’m the sort of fighter that is rough and ready. My last few fights have been Fight of the Year contenders. People know I’m always going to be there and in his face.

“With this fight I’ll have to try and wear him down as much as I can from early on and try and drag him into a fight. I don’t think it’s going to look pretty. To win I’m going to have to work out the clinches and force everything on him, [use] every little trick in the book to make it a rough and hard fight for him.”

The winner receives a Commonwealth Silver trinket and a crack at the English super-welterweight title currently held by Bournemouth’s Lee ‘Chaos’ Cutler. If Martin were to overcome the odds and cause the upset, he would return to Southminster to show his supporters his new hardware but beating Bostan would be another form of justification for the time he spends away from his wife and 18-month-old daughter balancing his day job as a groundworker and grafting in the gym to make a life for himself and his family.

Martin took us through what a typical day is like for the 29-year-old.

“If I’m running in the morning, which I do a couple of times a week, I’m up about 5am and out for a four or five mile run then I come home.

“I leave for work about seven. I work on a local building site about 15-20 minutes away. Start there and dig holes all day pretty much. Digging holes, laying patios, stuff like that. When I’m in camp I work a few days until about 3.30-4pm then I usually head straight to the gym which is about 15 minutes away from my building site as well.

“I’m usually in the gym about two to two and a half hours so that gives me enough time to get home and see my little girl for a half hour or hour before we put her to bed. Have some dinner, sit down for half an hour before I go to bed. That’s a usual day in my life.”

That has been the life of Jack Martin for years now. It is his reality; it is what he knows. Try and change that or take it away from him to free up some time would have him feeling lost. But with the addition of his little girl to the picture he admits that the combination of everything can take its toll.

“If I’m sparring, I might not get a chance to get back and see her. I’ll rush home and my wife’s already put her to bed and I’m like that’s another day I’ve missed out.

“Obviously, I don’t see her before I go to work in the morning. So, I’m hoping she’s going to be awake by the time I get home that day. That’s probably the most stressful thing about it. That’s why I’ve started leaving work an hour or two early when I’m in camp so I can find that work, training, and family life balance.”

The plate spinning isn’t a unique story and one that solely belongs to Jack. Who knows how many are doing similar all over the world. But Jack is beginning to see the sacrifices pay off. A second attempt at winning the Southern Area 154lbs title was a successful one back in March 2023. A points win (97-93) over Shaquille Day made up for the defeat (94-96) to Jordan Dujon in October 2022.

His best day beating Day and winning the Southern Area delivered on Martin’s expectations when he turned professional at 25. His training team, including his dad, moved from the amateurs to the pros with him at the same time. Martin realised his fighting style needed to move to a different code. Fighting every other week while making the traditional sacrifices needed to become worth his while.

“My time’s running out, I suppose,” he said. “I’m nearly 30 so I want to take all the hard fights I can get and keep propelling myself. If I don’t test myself, I’ll never know what I’m able to become.”

Fighters are not normal people in the kindest sense. What they do for a living is anything but normal. We all know there are far easier ways to add to your bank balance but what makes them even more unique is when you talk to them and learn their way of thinking. For example, if you were to watch Jack’s fight with CJ Challenger you might be in awe, inspired to go for a run or to the gym or simply have a renewed appreciation for what they give of themselves in the ring.

“After that CJ fight people were going crazy about it and I couldn’t really see why at first,” Martin says.

“I remember saying to my wife, I didn’t want to sound big-headed or say it’s just another day at the office, but it is. The way I spar, the way I train, we’re always doing non-stop pad work. That is the way I train and in a way, it is another day at the office. I train for a fight like that so having a fight like that just felt like another day really.”

The West Ham Utd fan knows that no matter what his loyal fanbase in Southminster appreciate him for what he is doing and who he is. Martin talks about them like they are extended family and can’t find the words to describe what they mean to him. As a way of saying thanks he has instead found another way of giving back.

“We have a little ritual,” he explains.

“I live somewhere where everyone knows everyone. We’ve got the local pub in the village and the landlord really supports us and puts on a coach for all the regulars. My dad goes in there regularly, I try and pop in there and see everyone when I can. We get back to the pub after the fight and it’ll stay open.

“I usually don’t have that much of a drink that night after having a tear-up. I go in and take the [Southern Area] belt in, and they’ll have my flag and put it up in the pub. Put a bit of music on and everyone has a little knees-up and a dance, a little celebration really.”

Whatever happens against Bostan it’s not difficult to imagine Martin’s local pub putting on another knees-up. There will be a hundred or more at the Exhibition Centre in Liverpool to watch Martin do what he does best and by winning against Bostan on a Matchroom show he could transform his career.

“My brother used to say, ‘You’re only gonna be in the game for maybe another four or five years’. So, I need to get the most out of it and everything else comes after. Some people at weekends can’t have a weekend without having a drink. My brother has always said to me, ‘That’s always gonna be there when you retire.’ I’m trying to sacrifice it all now to see where I am in the next few years. Try and push on and change my family’s life a little bit and to make them years happier.

“People like me and CJ fighting for titles like the Commonwealth Silver or Southern Area it’s all or nothing. If you lose that fight you know you probably have to have two or three more fights to get yourself back in that position. It’s a very fine line.”